Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quake Rocks City on Heels of Embarrassing Flooding Gaffe

Official reaction to inquiries over what caused today's earthquake:

Too soon?

Now, onto the very real deadly flooding and today's news conference:

Reacting to statements from Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and Allegheny County Sanitary Authority that water volume was the culprit, not the quality of their systems, Mr. Ravenstahl said, "I'm not necessarily 100 percent satisfied with that answer yet." (P-G, Joe Smydo)

That's pretty much where I'm at. And no further. It's too easy to say, "PWSA in particular and city government in general drives me up the wall, they must be at fault here."

But there are still some unanswered questions:

For example, though it was quickly made to sound like all the relevant parts of the system were recently inspected and confirmed to be operating in perfect condition, we're now considering "using robots to inspect the submerged outfall pipe". How critical is the function of that outfall pipe to systemic function, and when was the last occasion on which it was inspected?

Do we still really not know whether the storm drains on Washington Boulevard were clogged with rocks prior to Friday's storm, or whether the clogging occurred as a result?

Do we have any confirmation yet by meteorological professionals that this was in fact a "100-year storm"? We know it was bad. Three inches in an hour, two inches in 37 minutes is bad. Can actual weather experts state with the same confidence our public officials are employing that it was the Storm of the Century, the implication being, no sense fretting over another one that bad?

Even if it was an event we might once have considered a 100-year storm, is that still the case?

Finally, assuming we won't be laying this all at the feet of a submerged outfall pipe and clogged storm drains, I think we can take ALCOSAN readily at its word that an engineering solution preserving Washington Blvd. as we know it will take billions (with both a "B" and an "S") no matter which option we settle on.

Talk about a big dig -- imagine four or five North Shore Connectors.

Where in the hay is that supposed to come from?

Better to make sure those flashing warning signs work really well, and maybe add some mechanical arms to discourage the real idiots.

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  1. If it was a 100-year storm, it is the second one we had in 30 days. It was the second episode of dangerous flooding on that road in 30 days. I'm not sure how anyone can make the "100-year storm" statement without embarrassment.

    I have lived less than a mile from this road for nearly 15 years and remember no comparable events. I do not know what is going on, but something definitely has changed. And I don't think it is the rain.

  2. I wonder about the work on the ditch of the road up to the kids prison. That work needs done, but it might speed water down the hill.

  3. Bram, tell me it isn't so: Embarrassing Flooding Gaffe?

    An embarrassing flooding gaffe is when your Uncle Drew backs up the toilet and floods the bathroom on Thanksgiving.

    Four funerals.

    The problem is, many people do see it as an embarassing flooding gaffe. If it was my family, I'd be thinking negligent manslaughter.

  4. Sorry Vannevar, maybe I should have placed one of your "Warning: Satire" chirons near that title. I was just a bit taken aback at how quickly the four funerals became a political issue.

  5. Every time we get heavy rain down there, Zone 5 gets on the Police scanner and calls out to officers to come and remove there cars from the parking lot. They are well aware of the problem and maybe at the same time they could also have been instructed to close the road. They did the same thing 30 days ago with heavy rain, Mike Huss should have added 2 + 2.

  6. Question did Washington Blvd flood during Ivan, Katrina or other Hurricane left overs?

    I'm no expert but with more surface lots, or improved drainage from previous surface lots (think bakery sq) could definitely increase the run off into the watershed. More parking lots, more basins, newer-faster piping,etc.

  7. But, those were all paved or built-over surfaces when Ivan, etc. came through.

  8. I tend to agree with MH. There is no factor that substantiates a rise in run-off ofrom East End neighborhoods. So whatever the culprit, it isn't redevrlopment, at least not yet.

  9. I think an ambitious and successful drainage policy (if we could swing it!) would at least help a fair bit.

    In fact it'd probably boost property values generally (if imperceptibly).